Kate Sumpter is the writer and performer of one-woman show, SPIN, coming to the Arcola Theatre in January, following an acclaimed and sell-out run at Edinburgh Fringe, where it won Theatre Weekly’s Best Solo Performance.
Written and performed by Kate Sumpter in her debut solo show, Sarah Jane Schostack directs, with set and costume design by Lee Newby, sound design by Jamie Lu and lighting design by Robbie Butler.
The production is in Studio 2 at the Arcola opens on 9 January 2024, and runs until 20 January 2024.
You’re bringing your Edinburgh Fringe hit SPIN to the Arcola Theatre, what can you tell us about the show?
Without giving too much away, SPIN is about a spin instructor who wants to work at the most prestigious Spin studio in the world. As she leads the audience through a class, however, she starts to realise that things are not as they seem and she is forced on a quest to save her soul. It’s a one woman show that I wrote and which I perform on a spin bike.
What inspired you to write a show about a Spin instructor?
During the early days of the pandemic so many people tried to manage the crisis by being ‘productive’. One way this manifested was exercise instructors posting classes they filmed in their homes to social media.
The tone of the videos was positive and inspirational but they also had a manic and desperate quality to them. Here they were, alone in their homes screaming “You’ve got to work for your dreams!!!” to their camera phones while the world crumbled around them. It seemed so mad but I also recognised that that energy wasn’t unique to the pandemic. As I investigated its roots I saw so many connections between Capitalism, religious ideology, fitness culture and fatphobia and that was the beginning of SPIN.
You spend much of the show on a spin bike, how do you manage to get through every performance?
Honestly, the spinning isn’t the hard part for me; I’m so focused on getting all the technical and emotional elements of the acting right that cycling feels easy in comparison. The physical effort also gets more intense when the character is working through something intense so it can actually be useful.
Tell us a little about the character you’ve written, what do you love most about her?
She’s idealistic, painfully eager, driven, and incredibly strong, but also manic, judgemental, vulnerable, and very, very scared. I love her contradictions and that she can move from one extreme to the other in a flash. Although her positivity can be toxic, I also think she has a core of hope and a genuine desire to be a good person. She is very flawed and human but also fighting the best way she knows how and I have endless empathy for that.
And what do you find most challenging about the role (apart from being on a spin bike)?
The same stuff! It’s hard to truthfully travel to those extremes. Next character I write for myself will be WAY more boring.
It was so successful at Edinburgh Fringe, why do you think audiences reacted the way they did?
So many people – mostly women but increasingly men – have an incredible amount of unprocessed grief over their relationships to their bodies. We are taught to hate our perceived physical imperfections (primarily fatness), but we’re also not allowed to ‘complain’ about it, so we get caught in an evil cycle (pun very much intended) of pain and silence.
I tried to give voice to this grief in the most full and raw way that I could and I had a lot of messages from audience members and people staying after the show telling me how much that resonated with them. I think it points to a desperation for public catharsis around generational body trauma. There are also a lot of jokes and jokes are fun!
What are you looking forward to most about now bringing it to London?
The audience is so important to the performance so I’m excited to see how Londoners take it. The fringe crowds are so amazingly open and generous but I’m looking forward to the challenge of winning over the perhaps less-forthcoming London crowds. Performing in my city also means my friends can come see it and hopefully understand why I haven’t been hanging out much the last eight months.
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to see SPIN?
Do it! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll see something you’ve never seen before, and you’ll be able to tell people you went to some weird play where someone was on a spin bike the whole time. The whole SPIN team has been working so hard to bring this show to life and we would love to know what you think!